Leander ISD approves $366.65 million budget

Leander ISD’s board of trustees Aug. 22 unanimously approved a $366.65 million operational budget for 2019-20—an 8.39% increase over the previous year’s budget.

Lucas Janda, a former LISD employee hired temporarily to help oversee the budget process, said the increase was due primarily to pay raises from 4%-7.7%; an increase in staff to meet growth; and increased contributions by LISD to health plans.

Trustees also voted 5-2 to adopt the new tax rate, a modest drop from the current rate.

The new budget will drop the total tax rate by $0.0725 to $1.4375 per $100 of assessed value. Paired with a 6.5% increase in property values, Janda predicted the rate cut would save the average LISD homeowner $24.30 during the next year.

The new rate includes a $0.07 drop, to $0.97, in the maintenance and operations tax rate, which pays for day-to-day operations, and a $0.0025 drop, to $0.4675, in the interest and sinking tax rate, which covers debt. The M&O drop was part of a state-mandated “compression” of that tax rate, officials said.

Trustees Aaron Johnson and Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia voted against the new rate. Before the vote, Johnson said it might be wiser instead to pay down debt with that revenue, in case of a future economic downturn.

As part of his budget explanation, Janda discussed how, in 2020, LISD will be permanently changing the start of its fiscal year from Sept. 1 to July 1. While the current fiscal calendar runs from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31, LISD in 2020 will switch to a window from July 1 to June 30; this budget, then, will only cover 10 months.

Janda predicted the shortened fiscal year will result in a $16.8 million surplus.

Although the relevant funding is in the budget, trustees did not vote to hire new school resource officers, choosing instead to wait until they confer with new Superintendent Bruce Gearing, who starts Sept. 3.

With that meeting scheduled exactly a week after the first day of school, trustees received a report from several officials on the start of school. LISD’s enrollment is 40,868—slightly lower than 2019-20 projections, but still 1,120 more students than there were at the start of last year.

Larkspur Elementary School opened its doors to students for the first time. The school welcomed 532 students and “lots of smiles,” according to acting Superintendent Matt Smith.

Biggest changes to LISD budget
Increases

$12.3 million: Salary increases for teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors
$5.9 million: Cost of new teachers/campus staff
$3.3 million: Salary increases for all other employees
$3 million: Increases in teacher retirement system, health care and other equity
$2.8 million: Undesignated allocation (board and new superintendent to discuss at future meetings)
$900,000: Cost of noncampus staff
Decreases
$10.5 million: Major maintenance plan
$2.7 million: Total operating costs (decrease from 2018-19)
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